I am really pleased that Andy Western – leader of Trafford Council has made the comments I’m sharing below.
It’s something I’ve been uncomfortable with since the outset of the first lockdown. I was never happy that schools were shut down. With hindsight, I can see we needed a pause to get on top of the virus. However, I was very supportive of Kate Green’s stance that children needed to be back at school at the earliest date. She took flack for that position.
It’s never been the loss of examinations that’s been my prime concern. With the right provision of lifelong learning, this can be addressed; and maybe even improved upon, as we’ve never been good at it. Now it’s imperative, perhaps at last we can dream of the universal provision we dreamt about when Labour created the ‘Open University’.
I agree with Andy that it’s the loss of socialisation skills and friendship forming that’s the real worry. We’re seeing an increased prevalence of mental health problems and worsening anti-social behaviour. I sense there’s a stronger element of pure anger contained within the motivations for that behaviour than I have seen before. I get that anger. I get angry at those who pontificate at parents for the reaction their children are demonstrating.
It’s something that we’re going to have to address and there’s an urgent need for the conversation to really get started. That conversation has primarily to be driven by the young people and we need to find new ways of getting the voice of those most at risk from problems we’ve created. The catchup plan needs to be owned by those children and it needs to continue to be owned by them as they move through their life. We owe it to them.
Answer: Possibly not, but it’s not our biggest problem right now
For a long time I have been keeping a close watch of hospital admissions in the north west and also deaths. Those figures have been gently coming down for a few months. So, I must admit I hadn’t for quite a while been following the number of cases in Trafford until a week or so ago, and it was quite a shock that they’d deteriorated so quickly.
I was participating in the Covid-19 public engagement board this morning. It’s a forum for getting out key messages to support controlling the pandemic in Trafford. The Chair had some strong words in his opening that Trafford was currently suffering its highest incidence of Covid cases and was sat at the top of Greater Manchester rankings with the situation worsening. He felt that the Government were treating the pandemic as over when clearly the figures said the opposite. That’s a dilemma for me as I would argue the emphasis now should switch to repairing the damage.
Clearly the figures are striking and I can understand the consternation caused when generally we’ve never been worse than mid-table in our performance in combatting covid. That said, whilst the overall Trafford figure is high, what we appear to be seeing is a suburban surge throughout Greater Manchester particularly in the south of the conurbation. And we’re almost getting a doughnut effect. So what’s going on?
The current surge is very much focused on the age cohorts between 5 and 19 and secondly, the typical age cohort of those children’s parents. It’s those schools in the middle that have the greatest travelling around, which perhaps explains the doughnut ring effect. So lot’s of mixing, travelling and socialising.
This is not to diminish the impact of covid on these young people but we have good vaccination rates. At the same time I’m seeing so many indications of far more detrimental aspects of the 18 months of lockdown than the endemic nature of covid. This is why I’d switch the emphasis.
You might disagree with me but right now I’m more concerned with the levels of absenteeism in secondary schools across the country. That’s just one indicator but there’s many more and it’ll take years to understand the true costs of the decisions we’ve taken to combat covid but school attendance has certainly been affected.
I worry too about future levels of loneliness. That short period of adolescence into (wom)manhood between 14-18 is incredibly formative and vital and we’ve locked those young people up for long periods of lockdown, forbidden them from mixing.
People complain about the levels of anti-social behaviour but it’s remarkable to me that we’ve not seen more and worse. I worry that we’re storing up problems for years particularly when combined with damaged education delivery.
So it’s a difficult position we’re in. I do not want the Government to do more in respect of direct Covid support than they are doing. I think our job is to make the vaccine easily available. We never quite managed that in the north of the borough and there’s no longer going to be a huge return on giving easy access, but there’s booster delivery to focus on. We need to continue to provide support to care homes and those isolating. The Government should focus on providing financial more support to those who are ill or isolating but no more talk of lockdowns unless a future variant really turns this badly around.
The real thrust of our response should now be on supporting young people. We owe them restitution to enable them to build rewarding lives.
I just want to make this point. Covid has given rise to lots of wartime comparisons. My parents would have been adolescents at the start of the war. They went through a lot and lost friends and family but they came out of it proud and feeling enhanced by what they went through. This is not the same for the kids who have been through Covid. There is no wartime comparison.
My worry is that actually we’ve diminished the generations under 40, at times we’ve even blamed them, which I find incredible. I don’t expect them to ever look on lockdowns fondly or with any pride.
Lastly, I say this. Given the damage that Covid and the measures we’ve been forced into, if you’ve not been vaxxed and there’s no medical or age reason stopping you, then shame on you. I don’t particularly have a view on vaccine passports but be assured of this, any scepticism is purely practical and should in no way be interpreted as sympathy for those who choose not to be vaxxed. Jurgen Klopp is right that it should be viewed with the same contempt as drink driving.
Purely, in terms of cases, we’re hitting a new peak. Locally, the number of Covid infections has gone through the roof compared to how it was just a few weeks ago. Your chance of coming into contact with the disease in Gorse Hill or Lostock is greater now than it’s ever been.
Whilst the numbers being admitted to hospital are low, they are growing and worryingly the northwest’s number of covid patients requiring mechanical ventilation has risen six-fold in the past 6 weeks. So these are stark figures.
Get your jab
Maddeningly, we know that the vaccine works to reduce hospitalisations. So this is a plea to you to get your jabs. The vaccine is available to everyone 18+. If you’re registered with a GP, you can book through the national booking service. For those that can’t use the booking service, there are vaccination drop-in sessions advertised on the Manchester City Council website. https://secure.manchester.gov.uk/info/500362/covid-19/8079/covid-19_vaccination_programme/5. You can just turn up and will usually get your jab.
In less than two weeks most of the restrictions we have had imposed on us to combat Covid are lifted. I desperately want July 19 to be a success but you need to get your jabs if you’ve not already done so.
This has been a big issue for me. To be honest, I’ve ruffled a few feathers and got a ticking off at this month’s Labour group meeting, but hey-ho.
In the wealthy belt across the south of the borough the GPs seem to have worked through the cohorts at breakneck speed, way ahead of the Government’s schedule. It’s paying off. The rates of infection are now too low to measure across that area which hitherto has consistently had amongst the highest rates in Trafford. Trafford’s vaccination rate is very, very good in general except for the Stretford/Old Trafford area.
Vaccine rates in the north of the borough (the wards of Clifford, Longford, Gorse Hill and Stretford) continue to lag. We didn’t get off to a good start – the Delamere Centre is not a convenient location to serve the whole of the area and it took too long for Limelight to be brought alongside in Old Trafford to provide a second centre.
Nevertheless, we are where we are with centre locations. We still have a problem with vaccine take-up. Vaccine hesitancy in poorer areas, particularly amongst the BAME population is an issue across the country and it’s something we need to take seriously.
The Government is not paying it very much attention yet, but I think we should in Trafford. I logged on to a Local Government webinar last week on this issue; and it was clear the Government’s take was just to concentrate on the numbers, get through the willing as quickly as you can. I get that. The numbers matter. However, leaving less protected populations will matter too.
We see that covid is not affecting people equally. My concern with the vaccine is that the very people that have a right to be concerned about safety for historical; and to be honest, contemporary systemic reasons are the same group of people at greater risk of exposure and death from the disease. So, it is really worrying and highlights the importance of having these conversations; and going beyond just saying ‘trust us, it’s safe’ to really engaging and listening to people; and understanding where people come from and taking the time to address those concerns. Because otherwise, you have a further widening of the inequality you want to avoid, where the vaccine coverage also ends up being unequal with lower coverage in areas of black and minority ethnic groups which would be such a tragedy.
Dr Tollulah Oni – urban epidemiologist at the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge
The quote is from a video interview with Dr Oni published by the Voice newspaper and is well worth watching in full. https://youtu.be/2oE3IGOMXc4
There’s not enough acknowledgement that there are genuine issues. The video quoted above was released in December so it’s not as though we weren’t warned. We really need to listen to people, to be patient, to go the extra mile. It’s not simply a case of going through the Imams. I think there’s more we can do. I want to learn from places like Birmingham who have nearly 600 community covid champions – volunteers from within the community. We need to break through that lack of trust and it’s not going to be easy. The ‘hesitancy’ rate in the north of Trafford is at least double of any of the other areas.
However, I think we can do it and when you see the improved covid rates for Hale, you have to say we have every incentive to make this work.
Local people performing miracles. Getting on with it and sorting out their neighbourhood.
whilst in government
Every contract seems to go to the mates of Johnson or of his free-wheeling ministers. Everything the government touches seems to fall apart. It matters.
The lazy algorithm
The algorithm replicating the previous year’s results was inherently unfair. The calculation took no account of effort or attainment. It was a rotten method, and it would never stand up to the scrutiny of real-life circumstances. Leaving the retreat so late was incredibly frustrating. Given no exams, these results could have been released months ago. That would have given time for appeal and challenge before university places needed to be allocated.
Thankfully, the combined might of the pupils and schools, together with backing from our very own Kate Green in her role as Shadow Education Minister forced the Government to abandon it. I’m so grateful that the pupils won before it was applied to GCSEs.
It’s not all good. BTEC results are only just beginning to filter through after being pulled at the last moment.
Perhaps the hardest hit has been those students who were independently submitting themselves to resits to get the grades for their chosen University. They’re not getting any grade, and now the worry is that it’ll be much harder next year.
Please sign the petition for universities to honour the 2020 offer.
Local lockdown continues to apply in Trafford. Wigan and Stockport having their lockdown relaxed, it can’t be long before the measures are lifted here too.
I’m not sure the additional restrictions in themselves have had the substantial impact, but they reinforced the message that the disease continues in our community. My hesitation is that measures need to make sense within the context of what is going on in the local area. We should design our own measures. This should be Andy Burnham’s job with the support of the local councils and our superb Directors of Public Health.
We need the data. We need our Directors of Public Health to know who’s getting the disease and the places where they may have caught it. National tracing is not working. Another of Boris Johnson’s mates has the job of running track and trace. Local knowledge is a tremendous part of effective track and trace. We need full devolution of this to make it work properly.
Overall Death Rate
Trafford got through the peak Covid-19 in better shape than most metropolitan boroughs. Testing for coronavirus before discharging patients back to care homes had a significant impact. However, we are seeing a slightly more pronounced increase in deaths now compared to the five-year average. These are small numbers, but it’s worth monitoring as we move forward.
All councils set out a local plan for their area. It forms the basis of planning development decisions the council takes on applications that come before it. I’m a member of a consultative group on Trafford’s Local Plan as it has fallen out of date.
It’s a necessary, and sometimes boring document, but councils can be ambitious and visionary, if they choose. I am keen that the plan should bolster neighbourhoods and communities. I am attracted to the ethos of the 15 minute city. Trafford’s outdated plan encourages urban sprawl. It’s going to be an interesting debate.
Urban sprawl as a planning concept has lost its sheen, but it seems at least in Trafford to be the default model. You’re just not allowed to call it sprawl.
You can describe a development as a once in a lifetime opportunity to invest in an attractive urban extension with nearby access to town amenities and close to a renowned rural setting. These developments have no public transport links and no shops or community setting.
I hope we can produce a local plan that puts people at the heart of it.
Stretford Town Centre
Keep an eye out for the next update on Stretford’s Masterplan. We were hoping this weekend to reopen the continuing conversation on the town’s evolvement. We didn’t quite get everything ready, but it’s coming.
A planning application to demolish the Greatstone Hotel and build a 6 storey apartment block
101637/OUT/20 | Outline planning application for the demolition of existing hotel and erection of 69 residential apartments, including details on layout, access and scale, with all other matters reserved. | Greatstone Hotel 845 – 849 Chester Road Stretford Manchester M32 0RN
Motorbiking gang tensions on Chester Road
Nansen Park investment
Gorse Street Alleyways and Environs (issues of cleanliness and waste removal processes)
Parking issues connected to Lostock Park visitors.
Waste removal at Milton Court – serious breakdown in services
Sub-standard street restoration following tree removal in Lostock
Vibrations caused by structural issues on foundations on Barton Road
Housing issues – a number of residents unable to move from inappropriate accommodation. Covid-19 has effectively clogged up housing allocation.
Overgrown passageways and footpaths
Royal Mail Deliveries
Accommodating Active Travel (walking and cycling) v The needs of people in cars and vans
HGVs getting lost in residential areas trying to find Trafford Park, particularly Moss Road and Avondale Road.
Those Bowness/Derwent Alleyways
It’s always brilliant to help community clean-ups but the work of Dave on the Bowness / Derwent Estate has been of another level. It’s took us a few weeks but he’s achieved so much.
Trafford is experiencing the rise in positive cases of Covid seen across Greater Manchester. We don’t seem to be experiencing a corresponding rise in hospital admissions.
The rise in positive tests seems to particularly focused on a younger segment of the population. The message continues to be vigilent and get tested if you have symptoms. Trafford’s testing facility is at UA92 this week. Tests are booked via the NHS.
Impact on Council Finances
Dealing with Covid-19 has had a huge impact on Council finances for this year. Remember that the Government’s diktat was to do what was necessary.
The Government has issued grants to councils but go nowhere near addressing the full amount.
So looking at this year’s budget spend, we’re about £17m down on where we should be for the year.
The Government is talking about spreading the cost but Trafford under Labour has been a frugal council. I’d like to see finance reform but unless that happens we’re going to need support from Government. It’s my view you can only squeeze so much out of Council Tax.
You may have seen reports that the impact on Trafford Leisure in terms of maintaining a service has been even greater than on the council since they’ve not been able to open their centres. The council has reconfigured reserves allocated to the Trust to assist but since some of these reserves were connected to a new Stretford Leisure Centre/Pool, it’s obviously a concern to us in Gorse Hill.
Crime in Greater Manchester is currently up by 25% compared to the same time last year. This is a significant change as the figures for April and May were quiet in comparison.
I’m told that Trafford is not seeing the same increase. That may be across Trafford as a whole but my experience suggests that there is a peak in crime and disorder, as well as anti-social behaviour.
We are not very good at reporting crime in Gorse Hill. We know there is drug dealing at a number of locations. It’s not being reported to the police.
Do report on Crimestoppers too. It gives police vital information to apply resources
Lostock Circle Court
Circle Court has been due regeneration for a number of years. Windows are draughty and uninsulated and it needs all aspects bringing up to 21st century standards. There were hints that building a new hotel (still subject to planning) could bring in the receipts needed to assist. However, the financial outlook is such that the Housing Trust has indicated that any regeneration is now pushed back.
As councillors we’re arguing that this is precisely the right investment to be making at this time. We’re angry about it and will continue to make the case.
I don’t think closing the household waste and recycling centres was ever a good idea. They are at last open but we’ve been left with a legacy across the ward of fly-tipping and overflowing and abandoned commercial waste. I’m doing my best to find a way through these but people are angry and I understand that.
We also seem to have had a spate of bin thefts this week. Now the collection service is supposedly back to normal, expectations are confused and it’s clear that there’s a backlog of frustration and unattended fly-tipping and a big increase in incidences of rats across the ward.
The September resumption is a really difficult issue. Schools have been operating primarily as learning hubs with most of their pupils learning at home. The effectiveness of the learning we know is very mixed and the quality of the learning environment is extremely varied. The impact of covid-19 on learning will range from almost zero to a level seriously detrimental to the child’s outcomes.
Teachers and staff have worked incredibly hard throughout the period. I know there are worries about a full resumption. I suppose I’m in the camp where I just think we have to get children back. It is not going to be easy.
I’m a governor at Lostock High as well as Old Trafford Community Academy; but I did want to report back on Lostock as it’s important to the ward. Since May we have a new Headteacher, Lindsay Brindley. I’m really impressed with how she’s addressing the current situation. She’s managed to recruit some really proven senior staff into key positions. She’s worked so hard and I really wish her all the best in September when it’ll be the first time she’s had all the children back.
Extremely disappointing that Trafford’s GP practices with the worst ratings amongst patients were all located in the Stretford/Old Trafford area.
Trafford has 30 practices:
27 – Delamere Medical Practice, Stretford (72), 28 – Old Trafford Medical Practice (67), 29 – North Trafford Group Practice, Stretford (61) 30 – Brooks Bar Medical Centre, Stretford (60).
Only Lostock avoided the bottom places coming in at 14.
I raised this with the Director of Public Health but I suspect it’s an issue for the CCG and the Council’s Health Scrutiny. I suppose looking at the position as a whole, then Trafford’s practices are doing well, however I’m not happy our practices are failing to serve their patients as well as others.
There are a number of pressures building up whilst covid-19 lockdown has been in place. It is only now that Social Landlords are entering into new lets. We had an effective freezing of movement. The ban on evictions extends until 23rd August.
Obviously no one wants to see evictions without cause but sometimes it’s the only way for a situation to ease and it’s pressured to say the least at the moment.
Easing of Lockdown
I think generally it’s gone well. Clearly a lot of this is for the council to police. The requirement to wear a mask was 100% adhered to when I visited Tesco, but I understand the company (along with Sainsburys) is now saying they won’t intervene with people not wearing a mask. I think that’s a mistake.
From what I have seen bars are quiet.
Really disappointed to see the Up Top project not proceed. I have no inside information on what happened there.
Not comfortable with gyms reopening personally.
Supporting the A56 Bike Lanes
I’ve made my position clear that I very much welcome the bike lanes. Perhaps interestingly, I think it’s less about facilitating bike riding and more about taming the A56 so that traffic movement is at civilised speeds and steady whilst people can reclaim the pavements for walking and chatting without the poisonous exhausts and imposing roar.
I think we’re going to see more facilities brought in quite quickly. Close to home we might see some filtering around Gorse Avenue and Ashover Street. Apparently letters are going out today though I’ve not seen them.
Planning appeals have been lodged against refusal on:
Hotel at corner of Warwick Road and Chester Road
The safe-storage facility opposite Arnold Clark showroom
A planning application has been submitted for the B&Q site to build 333 apartments (use class C3) and communal spaces ancillary to the residential use; flexible space for use classes A1, A3, D1 and/or D2; undercroft car parking; new public realm; and associated engineering works and infrastructure | Former B&Q Site Great Stone Road Stretford M32 0YP
We’ve also received a pre-planning consultation letter in respect of 13 storey appartments on Warwick Road. The letter has also been delivered to local residents.
This continues to be the busiest time I can remember for casework. At the same time, Trafford’s officers are mainly working from home. I’m continuing to do my best to deal with issues. I have had a mixture of complete success, partial progress and getting nowhere on various issues.
It’s a fabulous role being a councillor. It’s much better when I can get out and about as trying to deal with it all from a laptop is a pain. Have a great summer and hopefully things will be a little bit better come September.